The S&WB failures and responses to the recent flooding were completely unacceptable and demonstrated that we need immediate improvements to our drainage system and a mayor with a plan to keep New Orleans safe from flooding.
Recognizing that this is a public safety issue, LaToya offers an action plan for immediate results and offers a way forward to fix our crumbling infrastructure, improve drainage and most importantly protect our residents.
Cantrell Plan for Addressing New Orleans Drainage and Infrastructure
Short Term: Improve Drainage and Reduce Uncertainty:
- Immediately invest in improving our current system.
- The City has begun to do that by tapping in to the sewage and water board reserve fund and City reserves in order repair pumps, generators and storm drains.
- However, there is still much more to do. We should begin to grow our Department of Public Works, as well as our Sanitation, and Parks and Parkways departments.
- These departments provide necessary maintenance to our landscape and infrastructure, and a properly functioning pump system is useless without clean, properly functioning storm drains.
- Improve communication between DPW, S&WB and the Corps of Engineers, so each is aware what the other entities are doing, especially during large rain events.
- Leverage other entities, such as the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office (OPSO) and the court system to increase our maintenance manpower.
- OPSCO’s work release program. Inmates have already applied and been screened by the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, so this would be a voluntary effort, but with assistance from the City and agreement with the Sheriff this could make a difference in cleaning clogged drains and performing minor repairs.
- Councilwoman Cantrell facilitated a cleaning program partnership with the Traffic Court, Municipal Court and the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office where in lieu of fines, people could volunteer to clean up areas of the city. These volunteers could be used to clean catch basins.
- Work with NORA and Code Enforcement’s Lot Maintenance Program to fully utilize city resources by incorporating storm water management projects in to lot maintenance work.
- Leverage the social impact bond job creation program to increase city maintenance and compliment city staff.
- LaToya’s violence reduction program is centered around a social impact bond program that would provide jobs to at-risk residents.
- Leverage the job program to provide additional help to city departments that are short on the staff needed to provide necessary city services.
- Provide a long-term pathway to city employment for participants in the program that are able to show sustained commitment to the work.
Sustainably Invest in Our Infrastructure and Triple Maintenance Funding:
- Create an infrastructure fund that protects funding for maintenance
- New Orleans has underfunded our maintenance needs for years.
- Many of the revenue sources created from traffic and road related fees and fines never get directed back in to our infrastructure.
- LaToya will direct necessary revenue into a maintenance fund to provide for the needs of our city and to prevent those dollars from being used for other purposes.
- Work with the Orleans Delegation to get a portion of hotel sales and occupancy taxes dedicated toward infrastructure.
- The Convention had a reserve of over $200 million last year, and collected $20 million over its operating costs in tax revenue. The City cannot afford divert millions of dollars to an unused reserve fund when City maintenance and infrastructure needs are woefully underfunded.
- Additionally, many residents do not believe that the strategic decisions to bolster the travel and tourism industries have benefitted their quality of life.
- Using those hotel dollars to fund infrastructure strengthens the connection between the health of the tourism industry and the day-to-day quality of life of New Orleans residents. Streets that don’t flood benefit tourism and residents, many of who work in the tourism industry.
- Dedicate local City revenue to the infrastructure fund.
- LaToya will steer lease revenue from large scale projects like the World Trade Center towards the fund.
- She will also direct property tax revenue into the fund from development projects subsidized with tax abatements and PILOTs (Payment in Lieu of Tax).
- She will incentivize the public sector to sell unwanted and unneeded properties and get them back on the tax rolls and partner with nonprofits to put their properties back to productive use in exchange from long term payments to the city. The revenue generated from these initiatives can be directed toward the infrastructure fund.
Plan for the Long-Term Future of the City:
- Increase coordination of services and construction projects to decrease redundancy and ensure that we are appropriately living with water.
- Connect all agencies—S&WB, DPW and the Corps—to share data and determine a comprehensive plan for ensuring drainage and retaining water, which are not contradictory measures.
- Improve the coordination construction projects so that storm water management best practices are incorporated in to all city construction contracts.
- Clean up the city’s storm water zoning and land use requirements so that property owners can better understand and comply.
- Empower neighborhoods to improve their environments through green and clean initiatives and increasing private clean-up efforts.
- Expand LaToya’s Green and Clean initiative that would allow neighborhood groups to enter vacant and blighted lots to clean them of debris and erect barrier fences that would prevent future dumping.
- Coordinate volunteer clean-up efforts through the Department of Neighborhood Engagement.
- Create an “Adopt a Catch Basin” program that connects neighborhood associations with individual maintenance projects in their area.
- Invest in infrastructure that incorporates the principles of living with water and the work of the Urban Water Plan.
- Create an incentive program that encourages the use of modern storm water management techniques in to residential and commercial construction.
- Encourage and facilitate rehabilitation projects that lower individual flood insurance rates.
- Create a long-term plan to fund the Urban Water Plan.